Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 12 - 2008
---Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis announced an 8 percent increase in fares on regulated coastal shipping routes, those subsidized by the state and those where fare liberalization does not apply for lack of competition. The increase, based on inflation, will be effective from May 1 and is the first hike since May 27, 2005, when it was 6.8 percent. From now on fares will be adjusted every year on May 1, based on the consumer price index of the previous January-December period, the minister has decided.
Hellenic expected to benefit from Thyssenkrupp restructure
---Hellenic Shipyards' owner ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AG (TKMS) of Germany is to split its merchant and naval-shipbuilding operations into two autonomous companies. Greece's Hellenic and the group's other overseas yard, Kockums AB in Sweden, are to be integrated into the new structure with no job losses expected anywhere throughout the group which employs some 8,400 people and has annual revenues of Euro 2bn.
The restructuring involves the group's merchant ship and navy wings and takes effect from April 1, and says TKMS is in response to the "changing situation in global shipbuilding". Both the Skaramanga-based Hellenic and Kockums specialise in building submarines and naval surface ships, though Hellenic is making a play to join the offshore sector.
Most of the restructuring is taking place in Germany where the merchant-shipbuilding activities of Blohm+Voss change name to Blohm+Voss Shipyards GmbH and also take over the management of HDW-Gaarden in Kiel which is building container ships. The naval sectors of Blohm+Voss in Hamburg, Germany and Nordseewerke in Emden, Germany will be combined as TKMS Blohm+Voss Nordseewerke with headquarters in both cities and will focus on surface vessels. The group's Kiel yard, HDW, will concentrate on submarines.
Blohm+Voss Shipyards, with facilities in Kiel as well as Hamburg, will handle repairs, offshore and components, as well as newbuildings.
As already reported by , just before Christmas Hellenic signed its first major contract for export in over 20 years. The contract with Germany's Hochtief Construction AG is for a jack-up platform to accommodate an offshore wind-park for location in the Baltic and North Seas. Secured against strong international competition, Thies Stuber, coo of Hellenic, says "the project is of great importance due to both its high complexity and its use of breakthrough technology". No price details have been revealed, but Stuber says "the contract will occupy some 200,000-manhours and with delivery in April 2009 provides work for 15 months for the yard and for several Greek sub-contractors in the shipbuilding industry".
"This offshore project provides new perspectives not only for Hellenic Shipyards, but also for the ThyssenKrupp group in general, since it introduces the construction of special maritime vessels or special customised ships," says Stuber.
He notes that in the Baltic and North Sea region alone "some 150 wind-parks containing between 60 and 170 windmills each are planned".
Though Hellenic has focused on naval projects, Stuber points out new markets are being explored and "fully exploited for these customised types of vessels". He believes this "could prove to be one of the answers to the question of how the European shipbuilding industry can deal with the strong competition it is facing from shipbuilders in the Far East". Stuber also believes the yard has good prospects of securing work involving the conversion of tankers into storage facilities for liquid gas.
-- Filed: 2008-03-19
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 21 March 2008 Vol. 9 / No. 11
Egyptian to buy Greek bank
---Billionaire Naguib Sawiris of Oasis Capital is prowling for Greek banks. He owns assets worth 4 billion euros in Greece already.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
By Elaine Green
Venture capital player Oasis Capital Egypt is in talks to acquire a Greek bank, the Athens News has learned. The fund is controlled by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who already owns Greece's mobile player Wind and telco Tellas after earlier buyouts via Orascom Telecommunications totalling almost 4 billion euros.
"Any deal is likely to be made via Oasis and not Orascom," a source close to Sawiris told this newspaper, noting that the fund has been studying the banking sector.
Greek newspapers had picked up Sawiris' interest in buying a bank in Greece, but had mistakenly reported that Orascom was bidding. "If there were a Greek bank bid through Orascom, I would know about it and that's not the case," he said. "Nothing is firm yet on Sawiris' buy."
Listed Aspis Bank could be a target for Oasis, given that it is up for sale and is known to have two bidders from the Middle East, as well as three other unnamed bidders. But it could be more expensive than Oasis is willing to pay. An Aspis source told this newspaper that it is looking to sell for three times its book value - almost double the current share price as Aspis is looking for up to 5.50 euros a share.
"The stake would be around 20 to 25 percent and would come from a combination of stakes held by our subsidiaries Aspis Pronia and Commercial Value," he noted.
Aspis Pronia had a 14.7 percent stake as of February 20, while Aspis Pronia Property and Casualty had 5 percent. These two players are merging, and their total stake is 19.7 percent. Commercial Value controls 34.7 percent as of the same date, while around 40 percent is in free float.
Others under scrutiny
At least two other small banks are on Sawiris' radar, possibly including First Business Bank (FBBank), sources add. Quoted ATEbank (formerly the Agricultural Bank of Greece) is planning to sell its 49 percent stake in FBBank and hopes to obtain around 100m euros for the sale. Co-owner of FBBank is the Restis Group, a shipping and financial company with 51 percent. However, one industry source speculated that Restis may not be willing to share power with the Egyptian mogul.
Proton Bank would be a good fit as a target, but it is in the advanced stages of a deal with Israel's Hapoalim Bank, which is reportedly close to acquiring between 30 and 33 percent of Proton. "It would be quite a dramatic switch from an Israeli bidder to an Arab one," one observer noted. "But I doubt it anyway, as it looks like a done deal for Hapoalim."
Hapoalim executives met on February 20 with IRF European Finance Investments' chairman, Angeliki Frangou, and are understood to have reached an initial agreement with Proton. IRF, a listed hedge fund in London, currently owns a 20.6 percent stake in Proton. The bank has a market capitalisation of over half-a-billion euros and has a strong investment banking division that makes it an attractive buy, the observer noted.
Sawiris is understood to have no interest in Geniki Bank, the listed subsidiary of France's Societe Generale. There has been some speculation that the French may sell in the wake of the subprime problems and the bank's restructuring challenges.
Sawiris has not had an easy ride in Greece with the telcos he acquired. He was leap-frogged first by Vodafone and then by OTE-Cosomte in his efforts to be the first to launch a triple-play product combining mobile, fixed-line and ADSL services. As it stands, there is no integration between Tellas and Wind due to structural issues within Tellas, and it is not expected that the two platforms can be integrated until later this year, a company source told us.
Elaine Green writes for Athens News and appears here with permission.
CMA 2008: Fears grow over orderbook deliveries
---By Richard Meade, Stamford - Wednesday 19 March 2008
Concerns raised about viability of many deals.
FEARS are growing that a significant proportion of ships currently on order will never be delivered.
The current world orderbook as of the end of February is worth $480bn, but according to a straw poll of bankers surveyed last week by managing director of Clarkson Research Services Dr Martin Stopford, a consensus believe that up to $300bn of that figure is yet to be financed.
While Dr Stopford remains broadly confident that finance will be available for the majority, several industry experts have raised concerns about the viability of many deals.
According to Dr Stopford, the shortfall in existing deal being financed is partly due to a belief among owners that there is simply no need to source finance immediately.
While most believe that the shipping industry has so far been shielded from the full impact of the credit crisis, many delegates remain cautious about the long term impact.
Fairplay Company Profile: Aries board rechecks its horoscope
The review coincided with the departure of finance director Richard Coxall. He will remain in post until May, although he has resigned from the Aries board with immediate effect.
The company, whose shares are listed on NASDAQ in the US, has 10 product tankers with an average age of 8.2 years. These are estimated to have an average life cycle of 25 years. Its five box ships are on average 17.9 years old, but Aries gives then a 30 year-plus life cycle.
A product tanker, the 1986-built Arius, is being sold for $21.8M. Another tanker, Ostria (pictured), was repaired after damage last year and is operated on period charters.
The move Aries is suggesting has similarities to OMI, a corporation that also conducted a review of its future, then offered itself for sale. In April, OMI closed a $2.2Bn deal with Teekay and DS Torm.
However, there are two significant differences between Aries and OMI. First, OMI was a pure tanker owner, so it made sense for other tanker companies to pursue the deal. Second, the global equity market turmoil that now causes investors such grief had yet to begin.
Aries went public in June 2005, with a share price of about $13. It now trades at $6.60, after hitting a high of about $16 in late 2005.
Current pricing values the company at $188.1M. It has paid $1.83 in dividend per share since its flotation, but even this does not compensate for the erosion of funds invested at the IPO.
The third-quarter 2007 interim result showed that losses after income had decreased slightly and expenses had increased.
Why is Aries considering its options at such an uncertain time? It calls for strong period charter coverage to increase revenues and benefit shareholders. At a presentation in late September in New York, Aries officials said the product tanker fleet had average charter for 1.1 years ahead, and box ships for two years.
Six of its 10 product tankers and one box ship will come off charter this year. So many tankers coming off charter this year must also be a key factor. Product tanker spot rates are now slightly higher than in September, when Aries gave its presentation, but for most of 2007 they remained below the previous year.
Can the ships be fixed?
One question the board must answer is whether it can fix the six vessels at acceptable rates.
If yes, then it might also consider the possibility to expanding its tanker fleet. In tonnage terms, that would mean growing by 47% in the two years after the initial public offering to 575,000dwt.
If the prospects look less rosy, then selling off the company and closing the shop might emerge as a more lucrative option.
After all, second-hand prices for vessels remain quite high if only a prospective buyer can raise the financing needed to go ahead with such a deal.
Full company name: Aries Maritime Transport
Trading code: RAMS
Share price: $6.60 on 7 March; 52-week low $5.22; high $10.45
Latest financial result: 3Q07 net losses $6.4M vs $4.2M profits in 3Q06
Source: Companies, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 20 Mar 2008
Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. to Launch U.K. Service Center on April 1
---PIRAEUS, Greece, March 20, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. (NYSE: ANW: 29.50, -0.85, -2.80%) today announced that it expects to commence physical supply operations at its new service center located in the United Kingdom on April 1, 2008. The launch of Aegean's latest service center, which is related to the Company's previously announced acquisition of Portland Bunkers International Ltd., will expand Aegean's global network of marine fuel service centers to eight.
About Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc.
Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. is an international marine fuel logistics company that markets and physically supplies refined marine fuel and lubricants to ships in port and at sea. As a physical supplier, the Company purchases marine fuel from refineries, major oil producers and other sources. The Company sells and delivers these fuels to a diverse group of ocean-going and coastal ship operators and marine fuel traders, brokers and other users through its service centers in Greece, Gibraltar, Singapore, Jamaica, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Ghana and, beginning on April 1, 2008, the United Kingdom.
Excel secures $1.4bn credit facility
---A string of banks have given a 'big vote of confidence' to a dry-bulk takeover.
One of the biggest shipping syndications amid the "credit turmoil" has made its debut in London to what sponsors describe as a warm reception from more than 20 banks.
The $1.4bn credit facility supports the pending acquisition by Excel Maritime Carriers of fellow dry-bulk company Quintana Maritime in a deal that would create one of the sector's largest owners. Excel chairman Gabriel "Villy" Panayotides joined his bankers to pitch for a general syndication that seeks to place some $600m to $700m of the debt.
"We feel it was a big vote of confidence," Panayotides said an interview following the session. "It was very well received. We understand that it's a difficult time for credit but we saw a lot of smiles on the faces in that room."
Time will tell, of course. Ronny Bjornadal, head of syndications for lead bank Nordea, says the potential lenders will have around three weeks to indicate their willingness to participate. The result will be closely watched after a number of big-ticket syndications involving other companies fell flat during last year's credit-market meltdown.
The Excel loan already is fully underwritten with Nordea leading a large pack featuring DVB, Deutsche Bank and GE Capital as lead arrangers. National Bank of Greece and Credit Suisse are co-arrangers. The debt includes a $1bn term loan and a $400m revolving credit facility, priced at 125 basis points (bps) over the London interbank offered rate (Libor).
Some bankers have forecast that 2008 will not be a strong year for shipping syndications with so-called "club" deals largely replacing them. But Bjornadal tells TradeWinds that the particulars of the Excel financing make it attractive.
"It provides a conservative leverage of approximately 47%, front-loaded amortisation, a comprehensive set of financial covenants, modern vessels, broad contract coverage, an industry leader and attractive pricing," Bjornadal said.
The use of Quintana shares for roughly half of the $2.45bn acquisition price allows room on the new company's balance sheet for further acquisitions, he adds. The combined fleet will total 47 vessels with eight capesizes on order. The deal could close next month.
Bankers also are impressed with Panayotides, Bjornadal says. "The fact that we were able to put in place a strong underwriting group in the middle of the credit turmoil and over the holidays demonstrates the strong following the company has in the market," he said.
Each of the arrangers is committed to keeping a significant chunk of the debt on its own books, he adds. But financial observers will watch the degree of further participation - and the pricing - as a measure of the current marketplace.
For his part, Panayotides says he views the bank meeting not just as an opportunity to distribute the current debt but to build Excel's relationships going forward. This is in keeping with his view of Excel as a consolidator in the dry-bulk market.
"It's my vision to continue the consolidation," he said. "I told the group we want a core banking goup that we need to grow the company. We like to deal only with cautious bankers. They should be cautious, just as shipowners should be."
Joe Brady Stamford, published: 19 March 2008
To perform the NAV analysis Citi used Clarksons fair market value estimates and arrived at a value of $24.18-$24.50 per share. As shown in the table, the steel NAV numbers were adjusted to reflect the anticipated cash flows over the life of vessels on existing charters, while for leased vessels, discount rates of 8.7% to 10.7% were applied to derive a range of present values of anticipated excess cash flows. Coupled with a $43.43 NAV valuation for Excel and accounting for the $13 cash payment, this implied a reference range of exchange ratios of 0.257x to 0.265x.
Source: Freshly Minted, www.marinemoney.com
TNP - 4Q Earnings Ahead of Expectations on Higher Spot Market Results
---Tsakos Energy Navigation (TNP / NYSE) reported 4Q07 earnings of $0.56/day, excluding a gain of approximately $30.8m related to a vessel sale. The results beat our estimate of $0.54/share as well as the consensus forecast of $0.52/share. The company also declared a semi-annual dividend of $0.90, payable April 30th to shareholders of record April 24th.
Source: Dahlman Rose & Company LLC <firstname.lastname@example.org>
TOP Ships announces reverse share split
---Thursday, 20 March 2008
TOP Ships Inc. (NASDAQ:TOPS) today announced that at a special meeting of shareholders held on March 13, 2008, the Company's shareholders approved a 1:3 reverse stock split. The reverse share split is expected to be effective on March 20, 2008. Shareholders will receive instructions as to how to exchange existing share certificates for new certificates representing the post-reverse split shares.
Additional information about the reverse stock split is available in the Company's proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 15, 2008, a copy of which is available at the Company's website
Computershare Shareholder Services, Inc. will serve as the Company's Exchange Agent in connection with the reverse split.
TOP Ships Inc., formerly known as TOP Tankers Inc., is an international provider of worldwide seaborne crude oil and petroleum products and of drybulk transportation services. Upon delivery of the Faultless to its new owners, the Company will operate a combined tanker and drybulk fleet as follows: a fleet of 17 tankers, consisting of 9 double-hull Suezmax tankers and 8 double-hull Handymax tankers, with a total carrying capacity of approximately 1.8 million dwt, of which 85% are sister ships. Twelve of the Company's 17 tankers are on time charter contracts with an average initial term of over two years with all but three of the time charters including profit sharing agreements above their base rates.
In addition, the Company has ordered six newbuilding product tankers, which are expected to be delivered in the first half of 2009.
A fleet of five drybulk vessels with delivery of one additional drybulk vessel expected during March/April 2008. Including this vessel, three of the Company's six drybulk vessels will have period charter contracts for an average period of 18 months.
Paragon Shipping Inc. Appoints New Non-Executive Director
---Mar 21, 2008 (Hugin via COMTEX) -- PRGN | news | PowerRating | PR Charts -- ATHENS, Greece, March 21, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Paragon Shipping Inc. (Nasdaq:PRGN), a global shipping transportation company specializing in dry bulk cargoes, announced today that its' Board of Directors has appointed Mr. Dimitrios Sigalas to the Board of Directors as an independent, non-executive director, effective March 20, 2008. Mr. Sigalas replaces Mr. Ian Davis, who resigned from the Company's Board of Directors and from the Company's Audit Committee of which he served as Chairman, Compensation Committee and Nominating Committee, effective March 20, 2008 due to other business commitments.
Mr. Sigalas will also be appointed to the Company's Audit, Compensation and Nominating Committees, effective March 20, 2008. Mr. Nigel Cleave, a current member of the Company's Board of Directors and Audit Committee, is expected to be named Chairman of the Audit Committee.
Michael Bodouroglou, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Paragon, commented, "We welcome Mr. Sigalas to the Paragon Board of Directors. He has extensive experience in our industry and we look forward to working with him going forward. While we are sorry that Mr. Davis has stepped down as a non-executive director due to his other commitments, we thank him for his hard work and support and wish him the best of luck in his endeavors."
Mr. Sigalas has over 35 years of shipping experience. He has worked in various Athens-based ship-owning companies as Head of Chartering in both the dry and tanker sectors. Since 1988 he has worked as a journalist for the daily Greek newspaper "Kathimerini" and is responsible for shipping related subjects.
About Paragon Shipping Inc.
Paragon Shipping Inc. is an Athens, Greece-based international shipping company specializing in the transportation of drybulk cargoes. The Company's current fleet consists of eleven vessels with a total carrying capacity of 706,358 dwt. For further information, please visit the Company's website at www.paragonship.com.
Source: http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1231774/, Friday, March 21, 2008; Posted: 04:01 AM
Mariner's Choice Enters Euro 23.4 Billion European Marine Market; Signs New Greek Distributor
---JACKSONVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Mariner's Choice International Inc., (Pink Sheets:MCII) today announced that the company has agreed to terms with, and received its initial stocking order of products to Greece-based Tsirigotis G. O.E., a major European marine parts and supplies distributor that sells products to commercial cruise line operators and industrial freight and cargo shipping lines. The milestone distribution agreement and first shipment of products represents the Company's first foothold into the European marine market.
The European recreational, commercial and industrial marine sectors represent major target markets for Mariner's Choice, as there are an estimated 6.5 million marine vessels located within the borders of the European Union (E.U.) - an average of 1 boat for every 43 people - with nearly half of all Europe's residents, 280 million in-total, living near the coastline. According to the European Union Recreational Marine Industry Group, in 2005, the E.U.'s recreational boating industry alone was comprised of some 37,200 businesses with at least 272,000 direct employees generating in the region of Euro 23.4 billion in revenue, which does not factor in industrial and commercial sectors that tend to be far greater in revenue and scope.
Aside from the compelling "coastline" population and target market demographics, progressive E.U. standards and regulation with respect to environmental protection provide an ideal market environment for Mariner's Choice "eco-safe" products, as the E.U. has taken extensive, broad sweeping measures to ensure that pollution does not take place in European river basins, lakes and seas. Recently, the International Council of Marine Industry Association (ICOMIA), Marine Engine Committee (IMEC) and The European Commission have begun an impact assessment to look at the possibility of even more stringent engine emission regulations in the E.U.
Additionally, private advocacy groups are helping to drive increased environmental consciousness, and by extension, a more lucrative market for Mariner's Choice products in Europe. The Blue Flag program (www.blueflag.org), an international marine environmental advocacy group, is drawing attention to protecting water in marinas and beaches throughout Europe - as well as in many other parts of the world including Australia, the Caribbean and South Africa - calling for strict anti-pollution measures to be in place in order to gain acceptance and accreditation by the organization and display its highly-revered "blue flag".
Mariner's Choice CEO, Amie Hingston, commented, "We are very pleased and excited to have attained such an important milestone as securing our first European Distributor and we are fortunate to have such a dynamic sales organization 'leading the charge' for us across the pond. Tsirigotis G. O.E. is a major distributor in Europe, representing such large European companies as ERG S.P.A, the largest independent group operating in the energy and petroleum sectors in Europe. Tsirigotis G. O.E. has conveyed their enthusiasm in our 'eco-safe' products and the market opportunity for them, particularly our MC-Marine Fuel Catalysts, which uniquely address Sulfur Emission Control Area (SECA) regulation." She continued, "Furthermore, the strength of the Euro is making U.S.-based suppliers more attractive to European consumers, which should help aid sales in the European market. We look forward to significant sales from Tsirigotis G. O.E. in 2008 as we continue to build our pipeline of European distribution."
Greece, Azerbaijan agree to promote energy relations
---Greece and Azerbaijan on Tuesday agreed to sign a four-party agreement on natural gas supplies with Italy and Turkey aimed to ensure the successful completion of a Turkish-Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline project.
Greek Development Minister Christos Folias, currently on an official visit to Baku aimed to promote energy cooperation between the two countries, recommended that Greece would undertake a coordinating role towards this goal by hosting a meeting in Athens to finalize details of the agreement.
The Greek Minister and Azeri Industry and Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev signed a joint declaration, expanding a bilateral agreement signed in August 2007, confirming energy partnership between the two countries. Greece and Azerbaijan agreed to intensify efforts aimed to creating a safe energy corridor for the supply of natural gas.
The two sides also agreed to promote an agreement between SOCAR, the Azeri natural gas and oil company, and Greece's DEPA for the supply of Azeri natural gas in the Greek market. They also agreed to cooperate more closely in renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and energy saving projects.
The Greek minister also met with the Azeri Economic Development Minister Heydar Babayev and signed a protocol of cooperation to forge closer relations in the fields of research and technology, standardization, food safety and consumer protection. The Greek minister also met with the country's President Heydar Aliyev and the Prime Minister Artur Rasizabeh. Both meetings reaffirmed the friendship and cooperation between the two countries and underlined the significance of further promoting bilateral relations.